Just over three months on from the two Grands Prix held on the island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf last season and one week after the only pre-season test session, Formula 1 is back at the Sakhir circuit for the start of the 2021 championship, which is scheduled to feature no less than 23 races, ending in mid-December in Abu Dhabi. Following the test, all the teams have a lot of data that will come in useful for fine tuning their cars. Over the three days, Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow’s SF21 completed 403 laps and is ready to put its efforts over the winter to the test. The rules require that the basic car is unchanged since 2021, but it has been improved in all areas where the regulations allow.
The circuit. Sunday’s race sees the cars complete 57 laps of the 5.412 kilometres of the Sakhir track. It is famous for long straights and heavy braking points, the most difficult of which are at turns 1 and 14. There are three DRS zones where the movable rear wing can be opened: one on the start-finish straight, one between turns 3 and 4 and the third in the section between turns 10 and 11. The race will be run at night, under powerful floodlights which are as bright as anything the sun has to offer. As usual, as night falls on Bahrain, the temperature gradually drops, as is to be expected in this desert setting.
What’s new. For Ferrari, the biggest change is in its driver line-up, the youngest since 1968, with Charles Leclerc now joined by Carlos Sainz, with an average age on Sunday of 25 years and three days. So far, the Spaniard has taken part in 118 Grands Prix, with two podium finishes and one fastest lap to his name. Another change concerns the event timetable, with Friday’s free practice sessions now reduced in length from 90 minutes to an hour. The first one takes place at 14.30 local (12.30 CET), the second at 18 (16 CET). Saturday’s schedule is unchanged with the final free practice at 15 (13 CET) and qualifying at 18 (16 CET). In a change from the past few years, races will now revert to starting on the hour, rather than at 10 past, in this case at 18 (which will be 17 CET, as the clocks change in Europe).
Six wins. Scuderia Ferrari has won six times in Bahrain: the first victory came in the inaugural event courtesy of Michael Schumacher in 2004, while Felipe Massa won in 2007 and 2008. 2010 was the only year the race was run on the 6.299 kilometre Endurance track, when Fernando Alonso won on his debut in red. In 2017 and 2018, Ferrari won with Sebastian Vettel, while in 2019, Sakhir witnessed Charles Leclerc really making his mark, leading from pole until just a few laps from the end when a reliability problem meant he had to settle for third place and his first Formula 1 podium.
GP contested 1008
Seasons in F1 72
Debut Monaco 1950 (A. Ascari 2°; R. Sommer 4°; L. Villoresi rit.)
Wins 238 (23,61%)
Pole positions 228 (22,62%)
Fastest laps 254 (25,20%)
Podiums 773 (25,56%)
Ferrari Stats Bahrain GP
GP contested 16
Debut 2004 (M. Schumacher 1°; R. Barrichello 2°)
Wins 6 (37,5%)
Pole positions 5 (31,25%)
Fastest laps 5 (31,25%)
Podiums 14 (29,17%)
Bahrain Grand Prix: facts and figures
2. The number of previous times the Bahrain Grand Prix has been the first round of the Formula 1 World Championship. The first was in 2006 when Fernando Alonso won for Renault ahead of Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari. The second time was 2010 when Alonso won again, but this time on his maiden race appearance for Scuderia Ferrari.
3. The number of Grands Prix held in Bahrain in the space of just 119 days. Last year, because of the pandemic, the race in the Middle East was put back towards the end of the season and in fact the Bahrain International Circuit hosted two rounds, the first called the Bahrain Grand Prix on 29 November and then the following Sunday, the Sakhir Grand Prix, using the short 3.543 km Outer Track, with lap times of under one minute. This year, the race is back in its more usual slot at the front end of the season.
6. The number of track layouts at the Bahrain International Circuit. The most used is the Grand Prix Track, which is 5.412 km and is generally used for Formula 1. Then there’s the 6.299 km Endurance Track, which hosted Formula 1 in 2010; the 3.543 km Outer Track used for the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix; the 3.705 km Paddock Track; the 2.550 km Inner Track and the 2.500 km Test Oval.
25 years and 3 days. The average age of this year’s Ferrari drivers on Sunday. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz make up the second youngest Scuderia driver line-up. Only Chris Amon and Jacky Ickx set a lower average age – 24 years and 32 days – when they lined up for the start of the 1968 Spanish Grand Prix. In the 1967 French Grand Prix, only one driver, Chris Amon, started at the age of 23 years and 347 days, while in the 1968 South African GP, Andrea de Adamich lined up alongside Amon and Ickx to set an average age of 24 years and 206 days. Other young pairings were seen in Mexico in 1967 when Amon was paired with Englishman Jonathan Williams for an average age of 24 years and 229 days. The oldest Ferrari driver pairing was on the grid for the 1952 Belgian GP with Alberto Ascari, Giuseppe Farina and Piero Taruffi averaging 41 years and 288 days. In Las Vegas in 1982, Mario Andretti was the Scuderia’s only starter as Patrick Tambay had to pull out with an injured right arm. On that day, the American was 42 years and 210 days old.
55. Carlos Sainz’s race number appearing on a Ferrari for the first time. To date, the Prancing Horse has raced in Formula 1 with 56 different numbers: 1 was the lowest and 119 the highest in the 1952 German Grand Prix. Carlos’ 55 will therefore be the 57th to feature on a Ferrari in the World Championship. A few other drivers have raced with it before Sainz: Troy Ruttman, Bobby Ball, Jerry Hoyt, Al Keller, Eddie Russo, Gene Force and Jim Packhard in seven editions of the Indianapolis 500; Mario Andretti on a Parnelli in the Canadian and United States Grands Prix in 1974 and Jean-Pierre Jarier on a Lotus in the 1978 United States East and Canadian races in 1978.
This week in our history
24/3. In 2015, the Engine Museum was inaugurated within the MEF in Modena. The hall features a variety of Ferrari engines, from an experimental single-cylinder to V12s, V10s, V8s and turbo engines used in Formula 1.
25/3. In 1990, in Brazil, Alain Prost took his first win with Scuderia Ferrari on his second appearance for the Italian team. The Frenchman put his rival Ayrton Senna under pressure until the Brazilian made a mistake lapping Satoru Nakajima in the Tyrrell, wiping out his McLaren’s front wing in the process. Senna pitted to change it and Prost took an easy victory. In the F1-90, the Frenchman went on to score four more wins and was in the title fight with Senna until the penultimate round of the season, the Japanese GP in Suzuka.
26/3. In 1989, at Brazil’s Jacarepagua track, Nigel Mansell and Scuderia Ferrari made history with the F1-89 which took the first win for a Formula 1 car fitted with a semi-automatic gearbox controlled with paddles on the steering wheel. From then on, that became the dominant technology in Formula 1. It also became very common on road cars.
27/3. Sandro Munari was born in Cavarzere, in the Italian province of Venice. The 1977 World Rally Champion was a very versatile driver and also won in endurance racing. One of those victories came with Scuderia Ferrari: in 1972 Munari won the Targa Florio in a 312 P, sharing the driving with Arturo Merzario.
28/3. In 1976 at Long Beach, Scuderia Ferrari netted its 30th one-two finish. Clay Regazzoni won ahead of team-mate Niki Lauda by a margin of over 40 seconds. It was the Swiss driver’s fourth Formula 1 victory.